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Smart meters

The majority of homes in the UK are set to have a smart energy meter by 2024. Find out how they work, and how they can save you money.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 16 June 2020  | 5 min read

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Key points

  • Smart meters automatically send readings to your supplier and show you your real time energy usage
  • There are two generations of smart meter: SMETS1 and SMETS2
  • It’s free to have a smart meter installed due to a government scheme which aims to finish rolling out smart meters across the UK by 2024
  • How you get a smart meter depends on your energy supplier

The deadline for the government’s smart meter rollout was originally set for the end of 2020 but this has been pushed back to 2024

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters replace your current gas/electric meters. It automatically sends regular readings to your energy supplier without the need for an internet connection.

Smart meters allow you to track your energy usage in real time as it includes an in-home display (IHD) screen to show how many units are being used and how much this will cost.

Energy companies are obliged to install smart meters for free under the government scheme, but you don’t have to accept one if you don’t want to – you’ll be given a normal meter instead or a smart meter with the smart functionality switched off.

There are two generations of smart meter – SMETS1 is the first and SMETS2 is the second.

Is a smart meter the same as an energy monitor?

An energy monitor just reads your energy usage. A smart meter, does that too. But it also sends readings to your provider and shows you the cost of energy you’ve used to date

Advantages of smart meters

  • No manual meter readings - Your smart meter sends readings to your supplier for you.
  • No estimated bills - Only pay for energy you’ve used.
  • In-home display - So you can keep track of how much energy you use.
  • Better energy management - Real-time energy use means you can see when and how you spend the most money.
  • Remote prepayment meter top ups - With some smart meters, you can add credit to them, saving a trip to the shops with your key.

Disadvantages of smart meters

  • Switching suppliers - Most first-generation smart meters don’t send meter readings to your new supplier. The usage data on your IHD can be inaccurate too.
  • Meter readings are sent over mobile networks - It’s not the most reliable way for your supplier to take your meter readings and if installed incorrectly may lead to incorrect billing.
  • Real-time information might be unhelpful for you - Knowing how much you’re spending each day could encourage you to switch the heating off to save. This could be bad for your health, particularly if you’re elderly or have a lung condition.

Will a smart meter save me money?

The smart meter itself won't reduce your energy bills - you'll still pay for the gas and electricity you use. But, the accurate and real-time data a meter gives can help you make informed decisions. It’s much easier for you to see where you can save energy through little changes. Things like turning off lights when you leave a room or putting your washing machine on an eco-cycle.

Another financial benefit of smart meters is that they should stop you overpaying for energy. Your supplier won’t have to rely on estimated readings.

How can I get a smart meter?

Some suppliers will contact you when they’re scheduling smart meter installations in your area. With others, you can register your interest with them and they’ll get in touch with you when you can book an appointment.

Get in touch with your supplier to find out exactly how to get a smart meter. If you’re switching suppliers. Find the best the best deal you can, and double check their smart meter installation service if it’s important to you.

SupplierSmart meter generation – SMETS1, SMETS2 or bothHow to get a smart meter installed
British GasBoth – which one you get depends on where you liveRegister your interest
Bristol EnergyBoth – SMETS1 is only for those who urgently need a smart meterRegister your interest
BulbSMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Co-operative EnergySMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
EcotricityBoth - which one you get depends on where you liveRegister your interest
EDF EnergySMETS2Register your interest
EONSMETS2Register your interest
Green Network EnergySMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Green StarSMETS2Register your interest
Igloo EnergySMETS2SMETS2
LumoSMETS2SMETS2
Nabuh EnergySMETS1Register your interest
NpowerSMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Octopus EnergySMETS1 for people with additional needs, SMETS2 for everyone elseDue to a shortage of SMETS2 meters, installation bookings are suspended for now.
OVO EnergySMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Pure PlanetSMETS2Members are currently being contacted about smart meter installations before rolling out to all customers. If you have a SMETS1 or feed-in tariff, Pure Planet won’t be able to install a SMETS2 for you at the moment.
Scottish PowerSMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Shell EnergySMETS2Shell Energy is starting with customers who’s current meters are at the end of their lifespan, but you can still register your interest.
SimplicitySMETS1You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Spark EnergySMETS2Register your interest
SSESMETS2Register your interest
Tonik EnergySMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment. If you already have a SMETS1 smart meter, you can check whether Tonik Energy can read it.
Toto EnergyN/AToto Energy has recently stopped trading. All existing customers have been transferred to EDF Energy.
UtilitaSMETS1All Utilita tariffs come with a smart meter installation, so you’ll already have one if you’re an existing customer, or one will be installed if you become a new customer.
Utility WarehouseSMETS2You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment. If you’re a member, you can register your interest by logging in to your account.

Can I switch energy suppliers with a smart meter?

Yes. You can switch energy suppliers with a smart meter installed. But, depending on which generation you have installed, some of the functionality might change.

SMETS2 smart meters are designed for use with any supplier. That means when you switch, they’ll still send your meter readings automatically and you can view your energy use.

With SMETS1 meters, you’ll lose most of the functionality. You should be able to view your energy use each day, but the price will be wrong. It won’t send meter readings to your new supplier either. Most suppliers plan to update them to the latest SMETS2 technology soon.

Are smart meters safe?

Yes – they use radio waves to send your readings to energy suppliers, but the level of radiation is within safe limits. Public Health England has said they are perfectly safe to have in your home.

The meters themselves are vigorously tested under UK product safety laws to make sure they operate safely too.

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